For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.
What is The Session?
“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).
It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.
“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.
Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).
I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.
There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.
With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]
I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.
- Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
- Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
- The history and development of the style
- Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
- Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
- Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
- Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
- Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
- Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
- Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter
How to Participate in this month’s The Session
On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.
By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.
Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.
To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:
I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.
- Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
- English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
- American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]
The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.
“Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).
- Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
- Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
- American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
- Smoke Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
- Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles
- 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
- 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
- 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
- 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
- 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
- 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
- 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
- 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
- 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
- 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles
This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above, I am just going to list and link these.
- Brown Porter 34
- Robust Porter 48
UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other
Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today
I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].
Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles
Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165
Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282
Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]
Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.
Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.
Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]
Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter
Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer
Baltic porter, 82. See also porter
porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)
[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]
Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table
porter beer, 30, 43, 137
American, 47, 313-25
British, 135-38, 145-52
food with, 138-39, 314-16
producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)
And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe”
For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.
See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.